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Cocaine aka “coca,” “coke,” “flake,” “snow” or “blow” is a powerful stimulant derived from the leaves of the coca plant found in South America. It is estimated that 90% percent of the cocaine that reaches the US originates in Colombia. In the US, cocaine is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs are those which have a high potential for abuse and are currently recognized to have some medical value in the United States.

Cocaine can be snorted, injected, or when in the form of crack-cocaine, smoked. The most common method of use is snorting. The high from snorting cocaine can last anywhere from 15-30 minutes. The acute effects of cocaine use may include: increased energy levels, euphoria, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and decreased appetite. Cocaine’s physical and mental manifestations are a result of the drug’s effect on brain chemistry. The drug blocks the neurotransmitter dopamine from being reabsorbed resulting in elevated levels.

Long-term effects of abuse may include the following: addiction, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, paranoia, panic attacks, mood disturbances, insomnia and nasal damage. Withdrawal symptoms may include: depression, fatigue, increased appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness), and vivid unpleasant dreams.

Throughout history people have found that chewing on coca leaves gave them a pleasant boost of energy. In the mid-nineteenth century, the concentrated powder form of cocaine, as we know it today was first synthesized. In the late 1800s, cocaine was endorsed by some very influential men including the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and the US Surgeon General of the US Army at the time. The earliest versions of the popular soft drink Coca-Cola even contained coca leaves. Throughout the early 1900s, unregulated tonics containing cocaine were being sold across the US. Eventually, in 1914, cocaine was outlawed in the United States.

Cocaine use was on the decline into the 1960s until seeing resurgence in the 1970s. Cocaine was glamorized by the media into the 1980s and viewed as the white-collar man’s drug. It was not until the emergence of “smoke-able” crack cocaine in the mid-80s that cocaine began to gain the stigma of a street drug. Many large metropolitan areas in the US experienced a considerable spike in criminal activity as a result of the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s.

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